A dog known as "Austin the Flyin' Lion" is back with his owner thanks to an important piece of technology, a story that aired on Action News about a week ago and a community of friends and family that stepped up to help.
When Austin went missing, Johnny Mitchell's friends launched an all-out search. The two were considered local legends in southern California and had taken their show to places like the Sundance Film Festival and the Olympic games. So when Mitchell moved across country to care for his sick mother, he kept his cell phone just in case he got a call Austin was found.
Austin the Flyin' Lion is a name pet owner Johnny Mitchell has shouted out countless times before, but on Thursday it took on a whole new meaning as he called for his dog for the first time in about a year and a half.
The internationally known pint-sized Pomeranian was finally back where he belongs, on the arm of his owner marked by a permanent tattoo of Austin's full name and an outline of his dog's front paw prints on the palm of his hand.
Austin went missing in December 2010 after spending six years performing high-flying tricks at Venice Beach.
"It's been so hard," said Austin's owner, Johnny Mitchell. "I've been living in Louisiana, working really hard and taking care of my Mom."
The famous fixture was last seen following a group of teens and their dogs down an ocean-front road. It wasn't until last week, when a woman brought him into a Visalia vet's office, that workers discovered the dog had a famous past.
"We were watching YouTube, Googling it, finding any article and video we could watch to see what this dog was about," said Companion Animal Medical Center veterinary technician, Bethany Pruitt. "We were so excited."
Pruitt and fellow vet tech Wendy Daniels made the connection after scanning Austin for a microchip.
"Micro chipping is so important," said Daniels. "Without it he (Johnny Mitchell) wouldn't have Austin back."
That's when they contacted the company that makes the microchips, found a match and called Mitchell all the way in Ruston, Louisiana.
"I was his first phone call," said friend Chelsie Foster. "He was so excited. He kept saying Austin's been found! Austin's been found!"
Mitchell's friends posted our story all over the internet.
"Everyone that saw the video had tears rolling down their faces," said friend Mike Perlin. "They all chipped in."
Friends in Venice Beach set up a website, notified their network and donations poured in. Within less than a week, Mitchell had enough funds to fly to California and reunite with his best friend.
"I couldn't believe it. I was shaking," said Foster. "It was so many emotions all at the same time."
While our camera was rolling, Johnny jumped onto his skateboard to take a stab at a stunt. The two were able to pull it off like they were back at Venice Beach. It ended with a giant kiss and embrace full of fur.
"When he disappeared, I knew this day would come," said Mitchell. "There was just no way it could end like that, no way we could do all of this stuff and it just end when he disappeared. It's like we're picking up where we left off."
Johnny and Austin now plan to spend a month in Venice Beach before heading back to Louisiana.
The distinguished dog was also reunited with his 9th daughter "brandy rebel junior." In order to match her bright pink tail, Johnny plans to cut Austin's hair to resemble his original signature style - a lion's mane with an attached Mohawk.